THE ROAD TO KNOWLEDGE: Europeans, pt 2

Here are more of Stapleton’s views on his fellow Europeans:

Excerpted from THE ROAD TO KNOWLEDGE: Or, Young Man & Woman’s Best Friend, by George Stapleton, published in London in 1797.


As to the PEOPLE, though they are characterized by those of other countries for generosity, they do not display any great share of it among each other; the higher classes seem not to care much for the lower, and the lower care as little for the higher. With respect to the military part, the English soldiers are as good as any in Europe; and as to the sailors, they are the best in the world.


As to the Dutch, as a people, their character is pretty well known throughout Europe. How far their extreme love of money is reconciled to requisitions and contributions in support of their allies, I know not. It seems to be, however, the general opinion, that, with respect to a change in government, they have been rather mistaken in their politics.


The inhabitants are stout, robust, laborious people.


The natives of Spain are represented as proud, haughty, and indolent: even the peasants, like the Welch, keep geneologies of their families. The Spanish ladies are fond of paint, and are kept much at home, through the jealousy of their husbands. The men, at least such as are liberally educated, discover a great genius for learning, as appears from the number of learned men and works which this kingdom has produced, though greatly limited in their researches into some subjects by their excessive bigotry to their religion. As for wit and genius, either in dramatic or romantic performances, they are allowed to be excellent; nor would they be defective in point of politics, were their sentiments not fettered by a despotic government.


With respect to the people of Germany, their genius has appeared in the invention and improvement of many mechanical arts, especially clockwork…


The Poles are naturally active, hardy, and robust. The gentry have many virtues; they are open, generous, and hospitable; very civil to strangers; and, for the most part, men of honour: their greatest failing is vanity, and strong inclination to live, after their manner, in a wild kind of magnificence. The Polish ladies are generally fair and comely, and abhor painting and washes; they are said to be women of exemplary piety and virtue, both in their public behaviour, and in their domestic economy. But as to the meaner sort of people, they are, to a fault, ignorant and slothful; which, however, is rather to be charged to the constitution of their Government, than any natural disposition or temper; for where the law has rendered peasants incapable of possessing property, one cannot suppose they will take pains to acquire it.


The inhabitants are a brave people, but haughty.


The natives are in general robust, well-shaped, and of tolerable good complexion… The Czar, or Emperor, is a despotic Prince, and his subjects are all vassals.


The people are robust, and inured to hard labour.


The natives are of a robust constitution, and well calculated for hard labour. There is not country in the world where the women work so hard; for they till the ground, thresh the corn, and even row boats on the sea.

So…. Which of the above stereotypes surprises you the most? Do you think most of his stereotypes here reflect the standard stereotypes of his day, or do you suspect was he inventing his own, based on the people he’d met? (And did you notice how often he characterizes a people as “robust”?)

(And don’t forget about our next meeting of the Jane Austen Movie Club, the first Tuesday in August, when we’ll be discussing the Gwyneth Paltrow version of EMMA!)

who is stout, occasionally robust, but definitely not inured to hard labour

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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